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Industry Spotlight: Is SMS still effective in the retail sector?

With an estimated four billion SMS users worldwide, it is clear that texting still serves its purpose. Despite this, it has been reported that Google may be planning to replace text messaging with Rich Communications Services (RCS) messaging.

There is no disputing the fact that RCS is an exciting technology. It can send images, video and display receipts. However, this does not mean that it is a good idea for any business to remove SMS from its communications roadmap. In fact, text messaging has become so ubiquitous that it has proven itself to be a fundamental element within the whole omnichannel experience.

Consider delivery, an area that online and offline retailers are increasingly becoming involved with getting multichannel communication spot on is key to providing an enhanced customer experience. Consumers today make multiple orders online and want their orders to be delivered quickly, efficiently and, above all, to a sensible timescale; without having to spend hours waiting in for them to arrive. To action this, retailers must keep consumers informed at all stages of the delivery process and SMS is a quick, convenient and inexpensive way of doing so.

In addition, text messages are easy to consume; they have urgency and a trust factor attached; and there were 8.3 trillion text messages sent in 2015 alone.

For example, one of our customers, Home Retail Group, the group behind brands like Homebase and Habitat, sends up-to-date and personalised, text status updates on deliveries. This has resulted in an increased customer satisfaction rate and has reduced inbound calls from customers to the contact centre querying delivery times; boosting the quality of service and slashing costs at the same time.


SMS isn’t going anywhere soon

The beauty of SMS is that it provides ‘just-in-time’ information for consumers that are always on the move. It can equip retailers with the opportunity to push valuable information almost instantaneously to customers, including details on special offers and discounts. Retailers can continue a dialogue with consumers by texting new offers after they have purchased products.

Not only is texting still as popular as ever, it can also grab a consumer’s attention more than any other media platform. On average, users take around 90 minutes to respond to an email, for example. The average response time for a text is 90 seconds, according to the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA).

Texts can also be automated and two-way conversations initiated, while visuals can be added so that customers can click a hyperlink and re-schedule a delivery slot on a product.

SMS is undeniably an easy-to-use, convenient and cost-effective platform which is widely used. All of this incredible functionality means that SMS is here to stay. Yes, RCS, may be waiting in the wings – but SMS continues to reign supreme.


Words by Steve Robertson, marketing and sales director at the leading customer contact provider, VoiceSage.